LPN to RN Bridge Program to be Offered at KAHEC

Photo of the Kennett Area Higher Education Center.

The new LPN to RN Bridge Program at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center likely will serve LPNs employed in area health care facilities such as Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center and Pemiscot County Health Systems as well as other nursing programs in the area.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

June 19, 2006 – Southeast Missouri State University and the Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences have announced a cooperative new program in which they will offer an associate degree Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse (LPN to RN) Bridge Program at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center (KAHEC) beginning in the fall.

The new program was announced today at a news conference in the Kennett National Bank Student Center at KAHEC. The program will offer individuals with practical nursing licensure an opportunity to pursue education necessary for advancement to registered nursing practice. The Missouri State Board of Nursing approved the program June 7 contingent on a successful site visit scheduled for June 29.

Officials say the new program will help meet a growing need for registered nurses in the Kennett area.

“For quite some time, we have been working with Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center here in Kennett on community and hospital sustainability,” said Marsha Blanchard, director of  KAHEC. “The national nursing shortage is even further enhanced in the Kennett area. There is a well documented need for RNs in our area, and the need continues. The average age of our registered nurses is near retirement age. This program will improve the overall healthcare availability in our area and will provide training for nurses interested in staying here for the long term. This is good for economic sustainability for our area. This program should be a win-win for everybody.”Although there are LPN certificate, bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and master of science in nursing (MSN) programs currently available in the immediate Kennett region, an associate degree LPN to RN Bridge option does not exist, officials say. Officials said a feasibility study has been conducted that confirmed the need for an LPN to RN program in Kennett.

The University and the Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences have a long history of collaboration. The Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences and Southeast Missouri State University have worked together in the Cape Girardeau community to educate nurses since the College’s nursing program opened in 1991, with the College providing the nursing education and the University providing general education and science courses.

The new program will follow that model. Under the new program, Southeast Missouri State University will provide the general education and science classes for the program, and the College will provide the nursing theory courses and clinical supervision.

Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences President Tonya Buttry, Ph.D., said, “Our College is a private, not-for-profit institution of higher learning that specializes in the preparation of individuals for healthcare careers. The primary mission of the college is to respond to the needs of the community and region through the development of programs designed to prepare qualified healthcare professionals. Bringing this program to Kennett meets the community’s need and allows us to work toward fulfilling our mission. This is a wonderful opportunity for us, the University and Kennett.”

The Kennett LPN to RN Bridge Program will run parallel with the College’s existing two-year weekend and evening LPN to RN Program. Ten to 12 students will be admitted each year in the two-year track program.

Classes will be taught at the Kennett Area Higher Education Center via the traditional classroom setting and interactive television (ITV).  The University will provide the ITV equipment and classrooms, access to a special classroom for a Nursing Skills Labs, office space for nursing program staff, access to nursing journals via courier service from Cape Girardeau to Kennett, access to the University’s Kent Library resources and support for recruitment, pre-advising and testing of potential students for the program.

“The University has successfully collaborated with the Southeast Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences here in Cape Girardeau by providing general education classes for the College’s students since the College began 15 years ago,” said Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University. “We have now worked with the Kennett community for five years to develop KAHEC into a regional campus, providing higher education opportunities for up to 400 students a semester. One of the programs most requested by the Kennett community and the students we serve at KAHEC is the LPN to RN Bridge Program. We are very pleased to be able to meet this need and to provide this program for their area.”

Of the long-standing relationship between the Hospital’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences and Southeast Missouri State University, Buttry added, “Our partnership has worked well for students because they benefit from the expertise of both institutions. With KAHEC already in place at Kennett, it is only logical that the College and University expand the existing partnership. We are delighted to be able to take a model that has worked so well in Cape Girardeau to our neighbors in Kennett.”

Also supporting the program is Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center, which has committed $125,000 over an initial three-year period, including the donation of hospital beds and other supplies to outfit a nursing skills lab.

“Dr. Buttry and Dr. Dobbins are to be commended for their vision in working with Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center to help meet the health care needs of the community,” said Southeast Missouri Hospital Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Karen Hendrickson, Ed.D., RN, CNAA, BC. “The expansion of Southeast’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences beyond our immediate area and the resulting increase in registered nurses in the Kennett area will offer greater resources to patients so that care can be provided close to home.”

In a letter of support for the program, Melissa Samuelson, chief nursing officer with Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center, said their acute care facility has a heavy skill mix of LPNs, but the goal is to increase the number of registered nurses.

“RN programs are not easily accessible in our area,” she wrote. “Therefore, we have fewer RNs available to hire. Our local vocational school has certified nursing assistant and LPN programs, and the higher education center has existing BSN and MSN programs. These programs allow residents of our community to advance their education locally; but there is an educational gap at the associate degree level. Bringing an LPN to RN bridge program to the local higher education center would fill this gap, thus providing more registered nurses to our area.”

Kathy White, director of practical nursing with the Pemiscot County Vocational School echoes Samuelson’s comments.

“At the present time, LPNs wishing to return to school must travel to Jonesboro, Arkansas, Poplar Bluff or Blytheville, Arkansas,” White wrote in a letter of support for the program. “Due to distance of these programs, this, often times, presents such a hardship on students and families that it is just not possible.”

The Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences has offered its LPN to RN bridge program since 1991. Until now, instruction has been limited to those within driving distance of the College campus located at 2001 William Street in Cape Girardeau. The College has prepared more than 300 students to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. These graduates work as registered nurses in hospitals, schools, home health agencies, physician offices, industrial environments and a variety of other healthcare settings.

The new LPN to RN Bridge Program at KAHEC likely will serve LPNs employed in area health care facilities such as Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center and Pemiscot County Health Systems as well as the Kennett Career and Technology Center Practical Nursing Program and the Pemiscot County Vocational School’s Practical Nursing Program. The program also will serve those employed at Piggott Community Hospital in Arkansas, Beverly Health & Rehab Services in both New Madrid and Malden, and the Gideon Nursing Center.